Monday, December 12, 2005

The Travails of Travelling

My eyes scanned the horizon. In the cold, early hours of the morning, there were only a few people out on the road.

So far so good. I wait for that twentieth century four-wheeled beast that was to take me to work, the jeepney. And, believe me, beast is describing it kindly. In the tradition of the wartime vehicle from whence it originally came, one screeched to a halt in front of me in all its silver, hulking body. Well, it might have been silver in color but with all the dust, grime and touch repainting it's undergone, one cannot honestly tell.

I grabbed hold of the handrails to hoist myself up, which to my not quite 5 feet, is a bit high. Really, the inventor of this vehicle should have been more considerate of the natives. Filipinos are generally medium in height, right? So why make it in the original design of American soldiers about to leap off for war? The modifications should have been more Filipino height friendly by now.

Anyway, I sat on the right part of the bench running the jeepney. It's good if it's not full then you can sit to your heart's content. Space and comfort would be of no account here and you can even enjoy the soft breeze ruffling your hair (laden though it is with carbon monoxide) and relax during the ride.

Now, there are different types of seatmates in commuter transport and you can only hope to get the best. One is the forever leaning, I-haven't-had-a-wink-of-sleep-last-night, type. He sees you as a soft pillow and your only defense are the sharp bones in your shoulder to jut him with should he get much too comfortable and heaven forbid, salivate on you!

The second one would be the ramrod-straight, don't-you-dare-get-into-my-personal-space, type. He sees the enforced physical contact as burdensome and is actually counting the minutes as to the time he'll get off. Personally, I prefer this type since we only have to endure each other as far as our destination is.

There is also the eternally curious, let-me-look-at-your-face-and-hair-and-dress-and-body, type. The subtle ones will throw occasional glances at you while the bold ones will really stare at you. You can, of course, meet their eyes and hope that they get the hint (that you really do not enoy being made to feel like a bacteria under a microscope).

Of course, we can't forget the incessant talker, I-just-have-to-chat-or-make-this-call, type. If they have a companion, you'll be sure that their voices will rise above the noise of the motor while people around them try to pretend that they're not hearing that Mr so and so is having a torrid affair with a Ms such and such. Same thing if the person is talking on and on and on while brandishing a cellphone.

Lastly, (and this is limited to female co-passengers), is the shampoo model feel-alike with her long dark hair streaming behind her. Only problem is, it plasters the face of the person right behind her. Now, we don't know for sure if she washed her hair (we could try to smell it of course but we're already irritated at this point, remember?), or if she has dandruff or even (yikes!) lice? We, of course, would not want to be showered with any nasty stuff.

Every commuter trip is an adventure. It might be good or bad so you'd do well to start it off with a prayer.

Please, let my passenger seatmate be ok at least...

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